The new CPR guidelines are out with all sorts of fanfare and media coverage. Great news and lots of new research and discussion over a critical tool that could save some of the 250,000 people who die of heart disease each year. But why not the same media focus on preventing the deaths in the first place? How about this little-seen article with the staggering headline: Analyses: Heart Attack rates fall 17% after smokingbans enacted. (that was within one year and only with public smoking bans). http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-09-21-smoking-bans_N.htm
You all know my feelings about CPR – everyone should learn CPR, period. I think we need a serious re-think on our priorities though, especially when there is limited funding everywhere. Educating and preventing problems isn’t glamorous. It’s like being a parent – a long-term commitment, frequently involving nudging unwilling recipients, not always fun, but with real, positive, long-term outcomes. Plenty of research to support this very unglamorous, non-headline-grabbing methodology. Educate boys and girl sand civil war decreases, poverty levels drop, economic prosperity increases.
What would happen if teaching water safety and swimming to children were mandatory? Would the death rates from drowning drop 17% or more in a year? I think so. CPR is a crucial tool to save a life, but shouldn’t our focus be on not needing the tool in the firstplace?
Two very different but similar articles caught my attention in the daily news feeds. Two stories of compassion, caring and courage. Two instances where valiant efforts were made to save a life. Where the stories diverge was in the relationships between the rescuer and the victim. In the first story CPR was attempted on the victim of a car accident. The would-be rescuer clearly was distraught and trying to help their beloved companion, instinctively using CPR to get the victim’s heart beating again. In the second story three teenagers witnessed a woman drowning, a stranger. Heedless to the lack of a ‘relationship’ with the victim, they leapt selflessly into the water, pulled the victim to safety and began CPR. In the first case the CPR was clearly untrained, a desperate attempt to revive a loved one. In the second, trained CPR may have saved the stranger’s life.
The big difference? In the first story it was a cat, in the second, people. I believe that we all possess an innate desire to help those that we love. I believe that most people would help a stranger in distress if they had the tools, the knowledge. Do you have the tools? Do you know CPR? Do you love your loved ones as much as the cat loved it’s companion? If a cat can try, so can you – get certified in CPR.
As with most things related to technology, I find that my perceptions of ‘age appropriate’ can be very dated. My 8-year old knows his way around my Mac better than I do. My 6-year old regularly checks the weather/times around the world on my phone. When I was six I didn’t know what a time zone was. If you asked me about cell phones and kids a couple of years ago I’d have probably said age 12 or 13, but life changes and the reasons to carry a cell phone change. When my teenager heads back to his other family in June, his cell phone will be designated for my younger kids to carry. Why? Because I want them to have a way to contact me easily when we are not together – whether I’ve dropped my son at soccer practice, my daughter is riding bikes with her grandfather, or they are spending the day with their dad. Then the question, what skills do I teach for using the cell phone? I’m assuming they will figure out every function on the phone within hours (and then teach me, I hope), but the most important skill is not so obvious – what to do in an emergency. One of my readers made an excellent observation that much of the time when a child calls 911 from a cell phone the dispatcher may not know where the child is located. Parents and school routinely talk about when to call 911, how to dial 911, but calling from a cell phone can be a little different. Remind your child that they need to tell the dispatcher where they are calling from, and if they don’t know, to stay on the line with the dispatcher so that person can ask questions and try to pinpoint your child’s location. For a great article about teaching your kids about CPR, Tali Orad, founder of http://www.becpr.org, recommends http://kidshealth.org/PageManager.jsp?dn=KidsHealth&lic=1&ps=307&cat_id=117&article_set=27852.
Just remember, it’s a critical difference when dialing from a cell phone, and given the attachment most kids have to their cell phones, they are likely to use the cell phone to dial 911. Make sure they know that they have to tell the dispatcher how to find them and to stay on the line until the dispatcher tells them to hang up. You’ve given your child a big responsibility and an important tool to staying safe, make sure they know how to use it properly.
May is Childhood Drowning Prevention Month. When I first started working on drowning prevention I considered myself a pretty well-informed and safety-conscious mom. I was shocked to discover that drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children in the U.S. Only automobile accidents pose a great danger to children. The statistics are the same for every developed country and even worse for under-developed countries.
I had no idea. I knew I shouldn’t leave my baby in the bathtub by themselves, but once they were stable sitting I’d dash into the other room to get clean clothes or something else I’d forgotten, confident they were OK for ‘a minute’. I made sure our pool had a fence and an alarm, but never thought about that ‘empty’ ornamental fountain at the back of the garden after days of rain when I let them play in the fenced-in yard. I’d watch my kids like a hawk when we were in the pool together (any pool), but on the day of our annual end-of-summer BBQ I’d trust that the mass of kids in the pool would raise the alarm if one got in trouble while the adults were within eyesight but talking and laughing and really not paying attention even though we’d have sworn otherwise.
I love the water. The best time I spend with my kids is in the water. I love watching the sheer exuberance on my son’s face when he’s dodging waves, doing cannonballs or just racing around having water gun fights. My heart swells with pride at every one of my kid’s accomplishment in swimming – whether executing the perfect dive or putting their face in for the first time. I will do anything to keep my kids in and around water – it’s good for their health and good for their soul – but I have also learned I need to be more vigilant. I will teach them water safety. I will watch them whenever they are near water. And I will protect them by knowing how to CPR if an accident does occur.
I know you love your child, so remember….Teach. Watch. Protect.
Spring is finally arriving in Chicago. Stories are starting to come out of warm-weather states in the U.S. – Florida, California, and Arizona about toddlers chasing the family dog, toddlers escaping during a game of hide-and-seek, toddlers out of sight for the time it takes to unload the groceries, toddlers left watching TV while the parent finishes some chore. Unfortunately the end result of these stories is always the same – the toddler is found in the pool. In some lucky instances someone nearby knew CPR and the child was revived. Too often the child dies.
Ideally every parent, every grandparent, every caregiver or concerned adult will teach the children they love basic water safety. They will enroll them in swim lessons. They will learn CPR. In a less perfect world, the absolute minimum effort should be effective fencing around any swimming pool on your property. Or if you are near a lake, stream, a neighbor’s unfenced pool or decorative water feature, fence your own property. Toddlers are most likely to drown in a swimming pool. They can rival Houdini as escape artists – make it harder for themselves to get into serious trouble when they do escape from your watchful eye. Fence.
Twice last weekend I was reminded of how confident 4-year olds are, and how their confidence does not always match their skill level. 4-year old and 2-year old siblings drowned in Florida last weekend. The details are, unfortunately, typical – they were only out of sight for a few minutes, an unfenced swimming pool, distracted adults. It can happen to the most vigilant parent (except maybe the unfenced pool). What caught my attention was the conjecture that the 2-year old had fallen in and the 4-year old had tried to save the younger child and also drowned. The next day I was on the phone with my business partner, Kerry. She had overheard her 4-year old earnestly explaining to her 2-year old that as soon as the summer arrived she would teach her to swim. She would take her younger sister down to the pool with no floaties, help her into the water and teach her, since she was such a good swimmer herself and wanted to teach her younger sister.
Cringing yet? Just about turned Kerry’s hair white and made me feel sick. My children are now 6 and 8. I’ve watched how my children learn, seen how proud they are of each milestone – whether it is walking, catching a ball, 100% on a spelling test, or swimming. I’ve seen how the younger emulates and worships the older (when she’s not beating on him, of course), and on good days I’ve seen the older teaching the younger. My 8-year old boy is half-dolphin, he was swimming at 3. Wait, let me re-phrase that….when he was 3 he could swim short distances underwater by himself with me hovering very close by. He could jump into the pool if he knew I was there to grab him. He is still a confident and strong swimmer but not old enough to swim with no supervision (my benchmark is mastery of the butterfly stroke and half-hour of laps before I will reach any comfort level). My 6-year old daughter was a bit more circumspect, her confidence finally rose to her skill level just a few months ago and she is now doing the underwater paddle very well. Could my confident 8-year old save his 6-year old sister? Emphatically NO. At 4? No way. Could any child save another? I’ve heard stories, but unfortunately for every heroic rescue there are dozens more cases where both children drown.
Teach your children to always call for help first if they see another child in trouble. Let them know they won’t get in trouble for reporting danger, even if they were someplace they shouldn’t be. It’s a constant balance not crushing their enthusiasm and pride in their accomplishments, but with pools and toddlers, it’s a matter of life and death.
Who has lost track of your child for a minute? A few minutes? Come on, I know I’m not the only one who has had that shot of pure panic at Target when one kid was begging for a toy and the other decided to play hide-and-seek under the clothing racks. Or how about at the airport when you are scanning the carousel for your luggage and suddenly realized your kids aren’t right next to you? At the playground? In a museum? The zoo? The list is endless but fortunately in most of those places, you and your child will be safely reunited within seconds, or at least in a few minutes with the help of police/store intercom/helpful strangers.
Unfortunately, there are the worst cases – where your child’s life is in danger because you lost track of them for a few precious minutes. We hear terrifying stories of abductions that make us more vigilant, but do you know the most dangerous place to lose track of your child? Near water. A new study by Ruth Brenner in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasizes once again that increased supervision of children while around water is needed to prevent drowning – a leading cause of injury-related death in children. I love the water. My kids love the water. Our best time spent together often involves being in or around water – pools, ocean, lakes, Chicago’s Millenium Fountain – but I know that is also one place where I can’t afford to lose track of them for even 2 minutes. I’ll teach my kids water safety, I’ll make sure they are strong swimmers, I’m certified in CPR – but part of water safety is knowing that I need to watch them, constantly.